Innovations That Matter

7 Innovations Improving Digital Accessibility

Innovation Snapshot

With #AccessibilityAwarenessDay in mind, here are seven innovations aiming to improve digital accessibility.

It is estimated that around one billion people across the globe have a disability, and accessibility issues go far beyond the physical environment. Barriers exist throughout the tech world as well, which is a central message of #AccessibilityAwarenessDay, which just so happens to be today.

We at Springwise are always on the lookout for innovations that remove accessibility barriers in digital technologies, and here are seven of our favourite ideas.

1. INTERACTIVE SYSTEM HELPS VISUALLY IMPAIRED USE TOUCHSCREENS

Craig Loewen and Lior Lustgarten from the University of Waterloo identified the need for improved accessibility in public touchscreen technology. Many everyday, crucial services ranging from ticket purchasing to cash machines require the use of touchscreens, which visually impaired users may not be able to see or feel, preventing them from accessing the machines that many people consider to be a part of everyday life.

WatVision aimed to counteract this problem with an innovation that combines the functions of both an app and a ring. The user opens the app and points the camera at the touchscreen they wish to use. Once the screen is in the shot, the user can point, using their ring hand, and the app will identify and read it aloud.

Read more about the touchscreens.

Photo source: Intographics from Pixabay

2. AUGMENTED REALITY MAKES ROBOTS MORE USEFUL FOR DISABLED PEOPLE

The Georgia Institute of Technology found a simpler way to control complex robots. It could lead to the development of faster and more productive assistive robots for those with significant motor impairments.

The interface uses augmented reality to help control what is essentially a robotic body surrogate. It displays a “robot’s eye view” of surroundings, allowing the user to interact with the real world through the machine and control how it moves.

Read more about the robots.

3. APP AND SMART KEYBOARD HELPS DISABLED PEOPLE GET ONLINE

ParrotOne uses touch-sensitive hardware on the keyboard, and the app is compatible with mobile keypads and most phones’ predictive text systems. Predictions are an important aspect of the ParrotOne approach; the system uses artificial intelligence to learn a user’s habits and frequently used words. The more the system is used, the more fully formed phrases it can offer the user. In today’s connected world, being unable to type as quickly as would be liked is one of the biggest challenges of having a physical disability.

Read about ParrotOne.

4. PORTABLE BRAILLE PRINTER IMPROVES ACCESSIBILITY ON THE GO

Joungho Yoo, a 45-year-old South Korean who was born with cerebral palsy, came up with an idea for a portable Braille printer, which can fit in your pocket

The Vrailler uses three perforated plastic plates. Paper is first sandwiched between the two bottom plates to create a base, and users then drop a set of plastic pins into the base-plate to create the Braille letters. Once they press the upper plate onto the base, the pins create the indentations of the letters onto the paper. The printer comes with a guide to Braille which allows anyone to create Braille text, even if they are not already familiar with it.

Read more about Vrailler.

Photo source: Pixabay

5. A NEURAL IMPLANT FOR RECORDING BRAIN ACTIVITY

Neuralink, founded by Elon Musk in 2016, is developing a high-bandwidth, implantable brain-computer interface (BCI). The goal is to both record and stimulate neural activity with greater bandwidth than ever before.

The implant could enable those with quadriplegia to control devices, such as computers or smartphones, with their thoughts. The device is still in the phase of animal testing, but Musk believes that it could eventually provide humans with superhuman intelligence, through integration with AI.

Read more about Neuralink.

Photo source: Pexels

6. MOBILE APPLICATION HELPS THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED WITH DAILY LIFE

The mobile app iSEE seeks to break down societal barriers by facilitating everyday tasks. The application works by accessing the smartphone’s camera and using this to recognise what is being seen.

The app is capable of distinguishing between different types of banknotes in just seconds, and once identified the iMobile reader tells the user the value of the note, with audio output in Cantonese. This helps the visually impaired go about their daily life more efficiently. The app is also able to identify text and colour.

Read more about iSEE.

7. NEW CAMERA ALLOWS THE BLIND TO SEE PHOTOS

A camera inspired by pin toys could enable the blind to feel photos. The 2C3D camera is the brainchild of Israeli designer Oren Geva, a recent graduate of the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan, Israel.

The camera uses 3D pixels on a screen attached to the camera, to create 3D photos and videos. The pixels shift to create a physical ‘image’ of the photo on the screen surface. The user can then touch the screen to feel what the camera is seeing in real-time. If users like what they feel, they can click and save the photo. Saved photos can also then be pulled up on the screen to be felt again at any time.

Read more about the 2C3D camera.